Global Mental Health Priorities and Opportunities

November 19, 2015

On Monday, November 9 2015, 200+ people gathered to celebrate the launch of The WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Capacity Building in Mental Health at Columbia University, Department of Psychiatry.  The event, Global Mental Health Priorities and Opportunities, provided a platform for discourse around the challenges we are tackling in mental health and served as the impetus for delivering the first annual Global Mental Health Award for Innovation in the Arts to the Director and Co-Director of Pixar Animation Studios Inside Out.

Kathleen Pike, GMHP, Janet Montag, Board Chair, Shekhar Saxena, WHO, Ronnie Del Carmen, Pixar, and Jeffrey Lieberman, Columbia University Dept. of Psychiatry.

Jeffrey Lieberman, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, opened the program by rededicating and realigning the priorities of the University with those of  WHO - to lessen the burden of disease caused by mental illness worldwide and to bring more treatments to those who need it everywhere. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, World Health Organization, praised the long history of Columbia University, the deep bench of scientists and scholars working in global mental health and substance abuse, and cited the role of Columbia University as the Data Coordinating Center for the Global Clinical Practice Network currently working towards the ICD-11 revisions.  Kathleen M. Pike, Executive Director and Scientific Co-Director of the Global Mental Health Program at Columbia University, reinforced the University's commitment to Global Mental Health and WHO.  "Nobody wants to fight a losing battle," she commented, "and with mental health, we can win."

Shekhar Saxena, WHO, Kathleen Pike, GMHP and Jeffrey Lieberman, CU, with the official letter establishing the WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Capacity Building in Mental Health.

Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen of Pixar Animation Studios are helping to win the battle through their portrayal of emotions in the animated film, Inside Out, earning them the Global Mental Health Award for Innovation in the Arts. This award recognizes the arts as a way to engage populations and convey messages both within and across communities and cultures, striving to overcome the misunderstanding, fear, and prejudice that often play a role in the concept of mental health in many cultures. Mr. del Carmen, accepting the award on their behalf, gave the audience a stunning, insider look at the five year long creative process that contributed to the making of Inside Out, and humbly thanked the University for their recognition of this film as a milestone in the movement to bring the discussion of mental health and emotional health outside the academy.

Janet Montag, Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Global Mental Health Program presents the Global Mental Health Award for Innovation in the Arts to Ronnie del Carmen, Pixar Animated Studios Co-Director.

A panel discussion on Global Mental Health Priorities and Opportunities, moderated by Pulitzer Prize winning author Sheryl WuDunn, brought together leaders in the field who discussed stigma as a huge barrier to improving mental health care and the need to train more non-clinical professionals to deal with the growing crisis of mental health care worldwide.  Following the discussion, Geoffrey Reed, WHO Senior Project Officer, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, unveiled the expansion of the Global Clinical Practice Network and spoke about the enormous potential for unprecedented collaboration between clinicians conducting studies across the globe who will now be able to share information in real time, greatly reducing the gap that exists between what we know and what we do about mental health.

(left to right) Carlton Whitmore, NYC Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene, Ruth Weissman, Professor, Wesleyan University, Milton Wainberg, Co-Scientific Director, GMHP, Shekhar Saxena, WHO, Tia Powell, Center for Bioethics, Montefiore Health System and Sheryl WuDunn, moderator and author, A Path Appears.

The event concluded with a performance by 17 year-old singer songwriter Mike Sabath performing "All of Us," a song he wrote and developed by collaborating in numerous settings worldwide with people who shared their personal experiences of mental illness. Faculty, leaders, students and others gathered for a celebratory reception, sharing ideas and excitement for the future of global mental health. To listen to the song click here

Mike Sabath sings his Anthem for Mental Health

For more photos and a play-by-play of the evening, see the @ColumbiaGMHP Twitter feed



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